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A Fourth Amendment Primer: What Florida Residents Should Know About Their Constitutional Rights

St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer

The United States Constitution gives us inalienable rights and legal protections that are taken very seriously in the U.S. legal system. One of the most common constitutional amendments to affect criminal defendants is the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This amendment protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure often comes into play during traffic stops and criminal arrests.

You Are Not Required to Consent to a Search

The way that many officers attempt to get around a person’s Fourth Amendment protections is by asking for consent to search. What is important for citizens to know is that it is not necessary for you to give your consent; in fact, any criminal defense attorney would urge you not to give permission. Officers may make you feel as though only guilty people have something to hide, but the laws of evidence are complex and the police may use something against you to build a case that you didn’t expect them to be able to use. Without probable cause that a crime has been committed, or without a legally obtained warrant, an officer has no right to conduct a search. Make the police go through the proper channels; don’t simply give consent to a search they otherwise have no right to make.

Items in Plain View Are Not Protected

One thing that is important to know is that any items an officer can see without doing any more than shining a flashlight are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. As they are in plain view, you cannot have any expectation of privacy regarding such items.

Evidence Obtained in Violation of the Fourth Amendment Are Subject to the Exclusionary Rule

In a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Court determined that any ill-gotten evidence may not be used against a defendant in court. In other words, if the police based their case on evidence found during an illegal search, the evidence becomes unusable, usually greatly helping the defendant’s case.

Additionally, the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine prevents the use of evidence that was only obtained because of the illegal search. For example, if an officer illegally searches a gym bag inside of a vehicle and finds a piece of paper with a phone number, and the number leads police officers to a residence where evidence of a drug ring is discovered, the evidence that was found only as a result of the illegally discovered phone number is also considered inadmissible.

Call the Khonsari Law Group to Speak to a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

U.S. Constitutional law may seem difficult to understand, but what is important to remember is that law enforcement officers may not search your car, home or person without a warrant and without probable cause. If you believe a police officer unlawfully searched your person or property, don’t wait. Call the Florida criminal defense attorneys at the Khonsari Law Group. If your rights have been violated, we will make every effort to ensure that illegally obtained evidence is not used against you in court. Let us help you put on your strongest possible defense. Call us at (727) 269-5300, or contact us on our website anytime and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. 

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